‘DEATHSTALKER’ and ‘DEATHSTALKER II’ – Duel of the Titans [1983 / 1987 / 2022] [Blu-ray] [UK Release] The Tales of the Myths and Legends of the Last Great Warrior King!

‘DEATHSTALKER’ [1963] tells the tale of a mighty warrior [Richard Hill] tasked to battle the dark forces within a fantastic kingdom. Embarking on a journey to a brutally challenging tournament, Deathstalker seeks its magnificent spoils: the throne of the wicked wizard Munkar [Bernard Erhard], an unstoppable mystical power, and the love of the beautiful Princess Codille [Barbi Benton]. But first, Deathstalker must prove himself worthy of his legacy… with danger and treachery lurking at every turn.

FILM FACT No.1: ‘DEATHSTALKER’ was an international co-production of Argentina and the United States; it was the first in a series of four films about the Deathstalker character and his adventures, and the first of ten films that Roger Corman produced in Argentina during the 1980’s. The film was shot on location and at Aries Studios in Buenos Aires. ‘DEATHSTALKER’ was a modest hit at the box office, coming in 61st for the year, and its success was mostly due to its release at a time when ‘Conan the Barbarian’ was creating a market for sword and sorcery films while also having a tight budget.

FILM FACT No.2: With the film ‘DEATHSTALKER II’ – Duel of the Titans director Roger Corman had a deal to make several sword and sorcery films in Argentina in a coproduction deal with Aries Cinematográfica Argentina, of which ‘DEATHSTALKER II’ – Duel of the Titans was the last. Roger Corman asked director Jim Wynorski, who had just made ‘Chopping Mall’ [1986] for Roger Corman, to direct it. Jim Wynorski said Roger Corman was upset that he did not get the chance to produce ‘Conan the Barbarian.’ Director Jim Wynorski reused sets from the previous sword-and-sorcery films Roger Corman made in Argentina. Jim Wynorski also stated that “The sets were pretty much trashed by the time I got there, because I think I was the last guy to use them before they got torn down.” Director Jim Wynorski wrote two parts for Monique Gabrielle, “Because it gave me an extra person, I needed a lot of people who could speak English and so, by creating a dual role for Monique Monique, I created yet another character, and every night, actor John Terlesky and I would go back to the hotel and rewrite new stuff and shoot it over the next couple of days.” Monique Gabrielle later described the film as her favourite, by saying, “It was a very difficult shoot, in a way, because we were shooting in Argentina and our script had a lot of stunts that couldn't be done with the limitations they had down there. It wasn't safe and there were a lot of problems. I almost got dropped into a pot of water, which, luckily, wasn't boiling (it was supposed to be). But, besides all that, it was really my favourite because I loved the role I played. I got to play dual characters.” Director Jim Wynorski said “it took a lot from me” to get Monique Gabrielle to play comedy, and said, “she had more apogee for playing the evil queen, but I said 'you have to play yourself', which is very sweet, and 'you have to play [it] as a funny, you know, waif and she did, she did a good job.”

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Cast: Richard Hill, Barbi Benton, Richard Brooker, Lana Clarkson, Victor Bo, Bernard Erhard, Augusto Larreta, Verónica Llinás, Marcos Woinsky, Adrián De Piero, Jorge Sorvik, Boy Olmi, Horacio Marassi, Patrick Duggan, Maria Fournery, Gabriela Rubinstein, Sebastián Larreta, Amalia Marty, Claudio Petty, Rudy Kumze and Alejandro Andrés Cuello [Young deathstalker] (uncredited)

Director: James Sbardellati   

Producers: Alejandro Sessa, Frank K. Isaac, Héctor Olivera, James Sbardellati and Roger Corman (uncredited)

Screenplay: Howard R. Cohen

Composer: Óscar Cardozo Ocampo

Costume Design: María Julia Bertotto  

Cinematography: Leonardo Rodríguez Solís (Director of Photography)

Image Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Audio: English: 2.0 LPCM Stereo Audio
English: 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo

Subtitles: English

Running Time: 79 minutes

Region: Region B/2

Number of discs: 1

Studio: New World Pictures / 101 FILMS

Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: ‘DEATHSTALKER’ [1983] This is a very camp film, and yet very entertaining swords and sorcery film from executive producer Roger Corman. See beefcake Rick Hill who takes on the title role of Deathstalker. After dispatching some ugly-looking guys who were trying to sexually assault a young woman, and then arguably accosting her himself, Deathstalker comes across a witch who sends him on a quest to find three items of power – a chalice, an amulet and a sword.

Deathstalker gets the sword soon after, by defeating an ogre and releasing the thief Salmaron [Augusto Larreta] from the witch’s spell. The other two items, however, are held by the evil sorcerer Munkar [Bernard Erhard], so Deathstalker and Salmaron head off to his castle.

Along the way, they befriend the warrior Oghris [Richard Brooker], who tells them Munkar [Bernard Erhard] is putting on a tournament to find his next heir. Seeing this as a chance to get into the castle and get close to the sorcerer, Deathstalker enters the tournament himself.

If after reading this ‘DEATHSTALKER’ film review and you are likely not too bothered by any dated aspect of the film, and bad taste factors, then I say enjoy yourself. Also if you just want to know if this film is still good fun time at the movies, then the answer to that is a big fat yes. I personally went with low expectations but was pleasantly surprised. Yes, it’s dumb, often rushed and muddled and is hardly original, but it knows what it is and delivers what the audience wants with little-to-no filler, making for a fast-paced cheesy treat. Your mileage will of course depend on your tastes, but if you grew up in the 1980’s and have fond memories of He-Man and the various Conan clones that littered cinemas and video shops, you’ll have a lot of fun with this ‘DEATHSTALKER’ film.

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‘DEATHSTALKER II’ – Duel of the Titans [1987]

Cast: John Terlesky, Monique Gabrielle, John Lazar, Toni Naples, María Socas, Marcos Woinsky, Dee Booher, Jacques Arndt, Carina Davi, Jim Wynorski, Douglas Mortimer, Maria Luisa Carnivani, Leo Nichols, Frank Sisty, Red Sands, Dan Savio, William Feldman, Nico Sarudiansky and Victor Bo [Kang] (archive footage) (uncredited)

Director: Jim Wynorski

Producers: Frank K. Isaac, Héctor Olivera and Roger Corman (uncredited)

Screenplay: Jim Wynorski (story), Neil Ruttenberg (screenplay) and R.J. Robertson (additional dialogue)

Composer: Chuck Cirino

Costume Design: Marta Albertinazzi (uncredited)

Cinematography: Leonardo Rodríguez Solís (Director of Photography)

Image Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Audio: English: 2.0 LPCM Stereo Audio

Subtitles: English

Running Time: 77 minutes

Region: Region B/2

Number of discs: 1

Studio: New Horizons Pictures Corp / 101 FILMS

Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: ‘‘DEATHSTALKER II’ – Duel of the Titans [1987] with this second film, our hero Deathstalker, is  now played by John Terlesky, and keeps bumping into Reena the Seer [Monique Gabrielle] and always getting her out of trouble. Deathstalker soon grows tired of her getting in his way. However, Reena the Seer later reveals that she is in fact Princess Evie and needs his help. It turns out the evil sorcerer Jarek [John Lazar] has cloned her and kicked her out of the castle so that he can rule Jzafir for himself, alongside the tough but sexy Sultana [Toni Naples].

This is easily the best of the DEATHSTALKER franchise movie. John Terlesky isn't the musclebound hulk that Rick Hill was, and certainly not the musclebound hulk in the Boris Vallejo painting they used for the poster, but he doesn't have to be. This is a Deathstalker who knows perfectly well that he's in a campy, B-grade sword-and-sorcery film, and is determined to have as much fun with it as he can. He takes nothing seriously, and almost everything is done with a wink at the audience. Deathstalker wonders aloud at one point where the cliché “Spikey Trap O'Death” is, and when the spikes immediately pop out of the walls he just rolls his eyes, says, "Son of a bitch!", and deals with it.

John Lazar as the villain evil camp Jarek knows it too, who is gleefully, maniacally of evil, but when he learns his adversary's moniker he can barely suppress the giggle as he repeats, incredulously, “Deathstalker!”

So we find Deathstalker believing he’ll be paid handsomely if he saves the Princess Evie [Monique Gabrielle], Deathstalker agrees to help her and the pair set off on a perilous quest.

Monique Gabrielle takes her parts seriously, and it's just as well. She's the one who's always in need of a rescue, and I suppose that someone has to put up a show of genuine peril. She also fills out admirably the part that's absolutely essential in films of this quality: she supplies the main set of on-screen boobs. It wouldn't be a proper B-grade sword-and-sorcery flick without them.

The film is also pretty bonkers, throwing all sorts of crazy scenes into the mix. Zombies show up at one point, a guy gets stabbed through some kind of mystical phone call and there’s a lengthy pro-wrestling spoof between Deathstalker and a huge Amazonian woman!

There’s not much gore and the production design has been taken a bit of a step down, but a lot of the old sets from the first film were re-used, overall, by taking a tongue-in-cheek approach to the characters and genre, it works a treat. Mad as a bag of hammers, but still fast-moving with a little filler and it’s an immensely entertaining film. So sit back, and have a beer or two, and enjoy ‘DEATHSTALKER II’ – Duel of the Titans. So do not hold back at being embarrassed in having a good laugh; you're supposed to. And stick around through the end credits for the outtakes, as they are quite funny.

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Blu-ray Image Quality – New World Pictures, New Horizons Pictures Corp and 101 FILMS present us these limited edition of the films ‘DEATHSTALKER’ and ‘DEATHSTALKER II’ – Duel of the Titans with two excellent 1080p image transfers and of course both films are shown in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio. With the film ‘DEATHSTALKER’ there is a very nice grain structure on display with lots of fine detail. Obviously, there are a lot of optical anomalies and sadly you get some softness does occur, but there’s some good depth to be had. There’s also some nice colour reproduction and good skin tones. Black levels are fairly deep with some pretty good shadow detail, while brightness and contrast levels are very acceptable. There are some stability issues from time to time throughout, but it’s a very clean presentation, aside from some very mild speckling, thin lines, and a spot or two here and there. For the film ‘DEATHSTALKER II’ – Duel of the Titans this release features shots that look to have been inserted from lower quality materials, but it’s a mostly strong presentation throughout. The quality is much of the same, although stability is a little more ironed out and is much cleaner by comparison, aside from very mild speckling. Skin tones fare a bit better as well. So all in all, both films give you what you expect from a low budget gothic sorcery films. There is of course English subtitles if you might need them. Please Note: Playback Region B/2: This will not play on most Blu-ray players sold in North America, Central America, South America, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. Learn more about Blu-ray region specifications. 

Blu-ray Audio Quality – New World Pictures, New Horizons Pictures Corp and 101 Films brings us these limited edition of the films ‘DEATHSTALKER’ and ‘DEATHSTALKER II’ – Duel of the Titans with a very standard 2.0 LPCM Stereo Audio for both films. With the film ‘DEATHSTALKER’ the dialogue is clear and discernible, and there’s some good score and decent sound effects, which features some mild ambience. With the film ‘DEATHSTALKER II’ – Duel of the Titans the dialogue is also clear and discernible and there’s also some light distortion, especially in scenes with a multitude of sounds happening all at once. Sound effects are good, but there isn’t much in terms of ambient activity. There’s also some very light hiss and crackle, a couple of dropouts, but a much stronger composed film score.

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Blu-ray Special Features and Extras [Disc One]:

Special Feature: Audio Commentary with James Sbardellati, John Carl Buechler and Richard Brooker [Audio only] [2022] [1080p] [1.78:1] [79:58] With this featurette, we get to hear this first audio commentary with producer/director James Sbardellati, special make-up effects artist John Carl Buechler and actor Richard Brooker and they are all here to talk about the film ‘DEATHSTALKER.’ Unfortunately, the whole of the audio commentary is total garbage and a complete waste of time and on top of all that, I had to crank the sound up. All in all, this has got to be one of the worst audio commentaries I have had to endure and should never have been included with this Blu-ray disc.

Special Feature: Theatrical Trailer [1983] [480i] [1.37:1] [2:04] With this featurette, we get to view the Original Theatrical Trailer for the film ‘DEATHSTALKER’ and the quality is atrocious.

Special Feature: Photo Gallery [1963] [1080p] [1.78:1] [2:08] With this featurette, we get a serious of images related to the film ‘DEATHSTALKER’ and at the same time you get to hear the dramatic composed film score by Óscar Cardozo Ocampo while viewing the photo gallery.

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Blu-ray Special Features and Extras [Disc Two]:

Special Feature: Audio Commentary with Jim Wynorski,  John Terlesky and Toni Naples [Audio only] [2022] [1080p] [1.78:1] [74:18] With this featurette, we get to hear this second audio Commentary with director Jim Wynorski, and actors John Terlesky and Toni Naples to talk about the film ‘DEATHSTALKER II’ – Duel of the Titans. Once again these three people talk utter rubbish like the previous audio commentary and again it was a complete waste of time. Once again, this second audio commentary was again one of the worst audio commentaries I have had to endure and should never have been included with this Blu-ray disc.  

Theatrical Trailer [1987] [480i] [1.37:1] [1:45] With this featurette, we get to view the Original Theatrical Trailer for the film ‘DEATHSTALKER II’ – Duel of the Titans and once again the quality is atrocious.

Finally, in the 1980’s saw a glut of “sword and sorcery” films hit screens around the world following the success of ‘Conan the Barbarian’ in 1982. A number of the initial imitators came from Italy, with canny producers banking on the fact that these films could be made relatively cheaply and quickly. Never one to turn up the chance to make a quick buck, Roger Corman got in on the action as well, making ‘DEATHSTALKER’ in 1983 as the first of ten international co-productions between the US and Argentina. ‘DEATHSTALKER’ was reasonably successful too, making $11.9 million in theatres. Not bad for a film with a $450,000 budget. It later continued to make money on VHS in the early days of rentals, helping pave the way for ‘DEATHSTALKER II’ – Duel of the Titans film. The series has gone on to become a minor cult following and 101 Films releasing the first two films, ‘DEATHSTALKER’ and ‘DEATHSTALKER II’ – Duel of the Titans together on Blu-ray in the UK will cheer up all those nerdy fans of both of these iconic sword and sorcery films. Recommended!

Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Aficionado 
Le Cinema Paradiso   
United Kingdom

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